Ridgway Historic District
The Ridgway Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Ridgway Historic District is a mixed-use residential/commercial/institutional historic district of 252 acres which encompasses the traditional core of the downtown and surrounding residential neighborhoods within the Borough of Ridgway, the county seat of Elk County, which is located in north-central Pennsylvania. The Ridgway Historic District contains a total of 802 unlisted resources and one property previously listed in the National Register (the Ridgway Armory, NR 1989). Of the 802 counted resources, 729 (91%) contribute to the character of the district and 73 (9%) are non-contributing. Most non-contributing resources are buildings erected following the c. 1850-1952 period of significance of the district; the extent of alteration of several properties has resulted in a loss of historic architectural integrity and their resulting treatment as non-contributing resources. Of the 802 unlisted resources in the district, 799 are buildings, two (both Civil War-era cannons installed on the Court House lawn in the 1890s are contributing objects, and one bridge is a contributing structure. Approximately twenty percent of the resources in the district pre-date 1890, approximately seventy-five percent of the resources were constructed between 1890 and 1930, and the remaining approximately five percent post-date 1930. In addition to the domestic and commercial architecture of the district, the institutional growth and maturity of the community is represented by several large churches, schools, and secular institutional buildings. One railroad station, the Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Depot of 1907 represents the transportation-related growth, of the district and of the community. The architecture of the Ridgway Historic District varies from modest vernacular residences and commercial buildings to spacious and highly detailed homes and business blocks, and a diverse collection of churches, governmental buildings, and schools. The presence of numerous strong examples of period styling are found throughout the district in its domestic, commercial, and institutional architecture. Most domestic architecture is of wood, while the district's commercial and institutional architecture is executed primarily in brick; a small number of stone buildings exist in the district as well. Many of the homes retain spacious verandas and historic dependencies. Larger dependencies (carriage houses, barns, etc.) are included in the resource count, while smaller outbuildings (sheds, small automobile garages, etc.) are treated as small-scale features and are not represented in the count. Two large barns on Hyde Avenue Extension, at the southeast corner of the district were associated with the significant holdings of the Hyde family. The Ridgway Historic District is a concentrated district, in that, unlike many other county seats and larger communities, this district is principally defined by resources which exist without significant development outside its perimeters. In addition to its stylistic definition, the district is defined by its topography, which includes steep valleys necessitating the later growth of the community to occur in areas removed from the district which was essentially built out by the 1930s. The district retains integrity in each of the seven qualities: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
The Ridgway Historic District is located on either side of Main Street, which is the community's principal historic commercial thoroughfare and runs in a southwest-to-northeast direction not far from the district's northern boundary. The community's other historic commercial street, Broad Street, intersects Main Street and leads northward out of the district. The Elk County Court House and its attached Jail is a dominant visual feature on a portion of Main Street between Court Street and Broad Street. A large residential neighborhood is located south of Main Street and a considerably smaller residential area lies north of the downtown.
The Ridgway Historic District is arranged in a grid of streets. Moving southward from the northern boundary of the district are Race Street and Erie Alley, Allenhurst Avenue, Main, Center, South, Metoxet, Charles, Lincoln, and Cardott and East Cardott Streets. From the district's northeast boundary moving southwest are George Street, Kearsarge, Little, East, Earley, Baker, Sherman, Sheridan, McClellan, and Grant Avenues, Depot, Spring Garden, and South Broad Streets, Cook, Court, Jackson, South Mill, Grove, Euclid, Vine, Elk, Emmett, and Johnson Avenues, Spruce Street, and Monterey, Vernon, and Irving Avenues. Most alleys in the district are unnamed; Long Alley is an exception. In addition to the traditional street names (Main, Broad, Mill, etc.) within the district, several streets were named for early settlers in the community.
All streets in the district are paved. Some historic brick sidewalks are extant and enhance the overall historic character of the district. Sidewalks are found on both sides of most streets and parking is permitted in nearly all areas of the district. Street lighting employs modern cobra-head fixtures powered by overhead lines throughout the district and traffic signals are found in the downtown.
In the central business district portion of the Ridgway Historic District, most buildings occupy their entire lots, with no front or side lot setbacks. Some commercial properties have paved parking areas along the rear of their lots. Institutional buildings, including the Court House, Post Office, and several churches and schools, typically have setbacks on all sides and may include lawns, planting areas, or paved parking. Landscaping throughout the district includes residential lawns both large and small, many streets with mature shade trees, and ornamental street trees planted along Main Street.
Among the significant natural features of the district are Elk Creek, which forms a portion of the district's northern boundary, and Gallagher Creek, which is largely culvertized in the district and empties into Elk Creek near the foot of North Mill Avenue. The Clarion River — very small in scale in Ridgway compared to its eventual size farther south — lies immediately outside the district on the west. One bridge is found in the district; it is a single span masonry structure which carries North Broad Street across Elk Creek, immediately south of the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot, at the northeast corner of the district.
The buildings in the district are of a conventional rectilinear form; some churches and private residences exhibit rounded bays. Frontages of the individual buildings range upward from approximately twenty feet. The commercial buildings are generally flat-roofed or have shed roofs which slope gently from front to back. Some historic chimneys have been retained, but most have been removed in the course of retrofitting heating systems and replacing roofs. Most of the buildings in the district rest on substantial foundations of ashlar sandstone; a smaller proportion of foundations are of brick. Rock-faced and smooth-dressed concrete block and structural tile were employed for the foundations of some buildings built after the beginning of the twentieth century. Most residential buildings in the district are gabled-, pyramidal-, hipped-, and gambrel-roofed; the few French Second Empire-style buildings in the district exhibit the Mansard roof which is characteristic of the style. Institutional architecture employs flat, shed, hipped, and gabled roofs, and in the case of the Court House, a Mansard roof. Due to the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century character of much of the district, most buildings are punctuated by tall and narrow patterns of fenestration. Art glass, both religious and secular, is found throughout the district; many examples of this decorative feature were produced locally by the Hyde-Murphy Company. Art glass includes both lavish and modest residential examples, prism-glass transoms on commercial buildings, and religious art glass in the district's several churches.
The architectural styles represented in the Ridgway Historic District include most of the design modes popular during the district's long period of significance. The vast majority of the community's vernacular settlement architecture was replaced by significantly more substantial architecture as the community matured. The district's earliest extant buildings date from the second quarter of the nineteenth century and are Greek Revival and Italianate in style; these were followed by buildings built in the French Second Empire, Gothic, and Late Gothic Revival, Italian Villa, Romanesque Revival, Neo-classical and Colonial Revival styles. The former Opera House/Strand Theater (209 Main Street) incorporates an Art Deco-style marquee, likely installed when the hall was converted for use as a movie house. Many buildings in the district are derived from no formal architectural style, but rather reflect the vernacular building traditions of this community throughout the period of significance. These vernacular buildings contribute significantly to the broad-based architectural character of the district as a whole.
The Greek Revival style is represented in the buildings at 429 and 417 East Main Street, and at 21 and 129 East Avenue, 125 South Broad Street and 15 South Mill Street. Italianate-style domestic architecture is seen in the house at 304 Metoxet Street and at 339 and 108 Center Street. The Italian Villa style is seen in the c. 1865 Jerome Powell House at 330 South Street. Romanesque Revival-style buildings in the district include the First Presbyterian Church, while the Gothic Revival style appears in the design of the Swedish Evangelical Bethlehem Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, Grace Episcopal Church, and the Christian Missionary Alliance Church. Gothic Revival-style domestic architecture is seen in the modest home at 449 East Main Street.
Italianate commercial design appears throughout the commercial area of the Ridgway Historic District. Examples include 325, 331, 249, 239-241 Main Street, and the Grand Central Block at 245 Main Street.
The French Second Empire style is represented in the district in the homes at 101 and 314 South Street, in the Elk County Court House, and in the Mercer Bros. Commercial building at 207 Main Street.
The Queen Anne style is not common in the Ridgway Historic District; Queen Anne-era art glass, however, is evident in homes which incorporate multi-light colored glass windows which are typical of this late nineteenth-century design mode. Queen Anne-style design appears in the homes at 130 Center Street, 306 Little Street, 239 Spring Garden Street, 220 Cook Avenue, and 254 Euclid Avenue. The Neo-Classical Revival style is represented by the homes at 506 Hyde Street, 310 and 307 Metoxet Street, 431 Hyde Street, 210 South Street, and the U. S. Post Office.
Colonial Revival-style architecture in the district includes the home on Hyde Street Extension known as "Rough & Ready," 545 Hyde Street, 522 Hyde Street, 113 and 115 Metoxet Street, one of the Hyde barns on Hyde Avenue Extension, and the Pennsylvania Railroad Station on North Broad Street.
The Dutch Colonial Revival, with its characteristic gambrel roof, appears in the homes at 429 Hyde Street, 108 South Street, 220 Center Street, and 428 and 342 Allenhurst Avenue, 313 Jackson Avenue, 227 Irving Avenue and 56 East Cardott Street.
Tudor Revival domestic architecture was popular in the district during the second and third decades of the twentieth century. In the Ridgway district, this style appears in masonry and wood and incorporates a partial exterior surface treatment executed in half-timbering. Tudor Revival-style homes in the Ridgway Historic District include the properties at 528, 515, and 500 Hyde Street.
The ubiquitous American Foursquare, essentially square in plan and usually incorporating a dormered pyramidal or hipped roof and a hipped-roof front porch, is found on nearly every residential street in the district. Foursquares in the district appear both in masonry and in wood and in some cases employ a first story of masonry and a second story of wood. Representative examples of this style include the properties at 313 and 123 Center Street, 222 Race Street, 439 Allenhurst Avenue, 28 Morgan Street, 319 Little Avenue, 315 Earley Avenue, 219 Cook Avenue and 315 Jackson Street.
Bungalows became a popular middle class design between the pre-World War I years and the 1940s. One-and-one-half stories in height, Ridgway Bungalows are gable roofed with a laterally-oriented roofline and often include a large dormer on the roof and a front porch recessed beneath the slope of the main roof. Within the district, the following properties represent the Bungalow style: 511, 515, and 526 Kearsarge, 340 and 338 Metoxet Street, 300 South Street, 107 Center Street, 110 and 112 East Avenue and 216 Little Avenue.
Post-World War II design includes the ranch-style house, represented in the 1949 William Blauser House at 101 East Avenue.
As noted in the introductory paragraph, the Ridgway Historic District retains historic and architectural integrity. The overall character of the district is intact and represents the community throughout its century-long period of significance. Some demolition has occurred in the business district and newer buildings, including banks and convenience stores, appear on corners which formerly contained historic commercial architecture. Alterations to buildings within the Ridgway Historic District include storefront renovations in the downtown area along with the application of non-historic siding and the installation of replacement windows in most portions of the district. Some homes reflect the removal of historic porches. These alterations are widely dispersed throughout the district and do not detract significantly from the ability of the nominated area to reflect its appearance throughout the period of significance. Mitigating the effect of the loss of historic buildings is the fact that a significant level of sensitive residential and commercial rehabilitation activity has occurred throughout the district, largely spurred by the Ridgway Heritage Council, a local nonprofit preservation organization.
Viewed in its entirety, the Ridgway Historic District is an architecturally-cohesive residential and commercial area which is situated on a grid of streets in this rural north-central Pennsylvania small-town county seat. The nominated area contains seven hundred substantial historic buildings of residential, commercial, and institutional character and retains integrity.
The Ridgway Historic District is significant for its association with industry and politics/government and for architecture. The district contains interconnected Elk County Court House and jail, and served as the seat of county government throughout the period of significance of the district. The district's links to the patterns on industrial development are clearly represented in its close association with the Hyde-Murphy Company, evident in the presence in the district of the Hyde-Murphy Office Building, homes of the Hydes and Murphys, and many homes, institutional buildings, and commercial architecture erected by this prolific firm. The district's more than seven hundred fifty buildings represent the range of architectural design popular during the Period of significance, which begins c. 1850, the approximate date of construction of the district's earliest extant buildings, and ends in 1952, corresponding both to the 50-year guideline for National Register eligibility and to the approximate date of construction of the latest of the district's historic resources. The district contains locally-distinctive examples of many of the styles of architecture popular from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. Among these are the Greek Revival, Italianate, Gothic Revival, French Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Neo-Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, Late Gothic Revival, Bungalow, American Foursquare, and Art Deco styles. Along with formally-designed homes are vernacular adaptations of many of the individual design modes as well as examples of purely vernacular architecture, which, although executed without reference to formal design tenets, are nonetheless the significant manifestations of local building traditions in Elk County. The district contains the work of regionally-prominent architects and builders such as the aforementioned Hyde-Murphy Company, manufacturers of building materials and building contractors in their own right. Ridgway's significance is inextricably tied to the heritage of Hyde-Murphy, since this single firm was responsible for so much of the distinguished architecture which characterizes this community; their work is seen in entire buildings as well as porches, window sash, and exterior trim, along with a full complement of interior finishes. In addition, Hyde-Murphy's in-house architect, H. C. Park, was a leading regional designer for more than a quarter-century and is well represented in the district. The Ridgway Historic District clearly retains the integrity necessary to reflect its physical appearance during its one hundred-year period of significance.
In the mid-1820s, James W. Gallagher entered the area that was to become Ridgway; Gallagher Run, within the district, bears his name. Ridgway was platted as an unincorporated village in 1833 and was named for Philadelphia Quaker Jacob Ridgway. The elder Ridgway (1768-1843) was a New Jersey native who worked variously as a cabin boy, ship chandler, and merchant, and became a skilled shrewd manipulator of the foreign exchange in Antwerp and Paris. He was among Philadelphia's wealthiest citizens and was regarded as being of comparable stature to Stephen Girard. While Jacob Ridgway's early biography is disputed by local historians, it is known that he owned in excess of 100,000 acres in McKean County and in the region which eventually became Elk County. At the time of his death, he bequeathed his Ridgway-area holdings to his son, John Jacob.
The pioneer settlement of Ridgway lay in Jefferson County until 1843 when a new county was erected from portions of Jefferson, McKean, and Clearfield Counties. The new political subdivision was christened Elk County, in recognition of the animals who frequented the area. The village of Ridgway was named the new county's seat of government. The community remained unincorporated until February 15, 1881, when it was formally organized as a borough. Elk County was long known as a major producer of lumber, oil, gas, and fire clay, and the county seat developed both as an important local political hub and as a regional manufacturing center. The historic cultural landscape of the community was dotted with large tanneries, factories producing machine tools, bedding, cigars, axes, wagons, and sleighs, a producer of railroad cars and railroad snowplows, an electric motor manufacturer, and the Hyde-Murphy Company, internationally-recognized producers of architectural millwork and art glass, and leading building contractors in their own right.
The success of the lumber industry in the region was most directly responsible for the growth of the community of Ridgway during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Writing in 1902 in the Pittsburgh Times, Bion H. Butler noted,
"Lumbering was the one and the staple industry in Elk County from the day the first tree was cut until in later years oil was found in some of the remote townships and coal began to figure in the Toby Valley. In spite of the near-ending of the once-famous industry, Elk County is in a more thrifty and more prosperous condition that it ever was. The towns are growing, the businessmen have money, the homes are of an elegant class as compared to the rough board cabins that were conspicuous when lumber was in its height. Of course, lumbering is still carried on, but it will be only a few years until Elk County will buy its building lumber instead of selling to the trade... Possible with the cleaning up the scattered remnants [of the industry] the work may last a little longer. Hyde, Thayer, and Company, with the tract that has been saved for a final operation will possibly to run ten years, and the Hall and Kaul interests and those of the Hall and Gardner Company may run about that long, but most of Elk County is shorn of its forest crops."
As noted in Made in Pennsylvania: An Overview of the Major Historical Industries of the Commonwealth,
"During the 1850s and 1860s Pennsylvania came to lead the nation in the production of sawed and planed lumber. The value of this industry during the State's period of supremacy can be shown by a comparison with iron and steel. In 1870, when the values assigned to Pennsylvania's pig iron and steel production were just over $13 million and $7 million respectively, that of cut lumber was more than $35 million."
The prosperity of the north-central Pennsylvania lumber industry was a significant factor in shaping the character of the Ridgway Historic District. In addition to the operations of Hyde-Murphy and several large tanneries (no longer extant), many of the commercial and residential properties in the district were built from the fortunes of lumber. Typical of these is the 1890s Grand Central Block, which was erected for lumberman Jerome Powell (1827-1897) who ran a major sawmill operation in the Clarion River settlement of Raughts and became both the first president of the Elk County National Bank and the first mayor of the Borough of Ridgway. In addition to the Grand Central Block, Jerome Powell's c. 1865 Italian Villa-style home is at 330 South Street. Henry S. Thayer operated the Laurel Mill, whose lumbering operations accounted for between twelve and fifteen million board feet annually; his spacious home at 330 Center Street was described in 1893 as being "one of the handsomest in the state." James Knox Polk Hall (1844-1915) was a prominent local attorney, banker, lumberman, real estate speculator, and a State Senator; about 1890, he erected a new brick home at 330 Main Street, which, after his death, was presented to the American Legion and still serves as that organization's hall. One of the district's few extant stone buildings is the 1890s Hyde House, located at 344 Main Street; Harry R. Hyde (1872-1954) was a leading local lumberman at an early age and went on to serve as president of the Elk County National Bank and of the Russell Snow Plow Company, producers of plows to clear snow from railroad track. It is likely that he and his brother George erected the home for their widowed mother, Elizabeth.
Not all of the homes in the district were erected for lumber magnates. Industrialists with other specialties along with lumber industry laborers and operators of a lesser stature populated the district as well. Typical of these is J. A. Lesser (1863-1944), who was a shop clerk, lumberman, and eventually was the assistant editor of the Ridgway Advocate and also served as Borough Tax Collector. His c. 1900 home is at 344 Metoxet Street. Local politician and former machinist John Merton Flynn (1873-1942), who eventually became a state legislator, built a Tudor Revival-style home at 500 Hyde Street. At 16 South Street, lived George W. Brown (1860-1937), a lifelong railroader who came to the community as a telegrapher for the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh Railway in 1883 and lived here until his death. Noah Brunner (1870-1938) resided in a home at 229 Monterey Street; he was a downtown Ridgway jeweler for forty-seven years.
Census data was not maintained for the unincorporated village of Ridgway, but the recorded population of the new borough grew as industrial growth cemented the position of the community as a regional manufacturing outlet.
The economic growth of the community was reflected in the annexation of several adjacent parcels from Ridgway Township, which surrounds the Borough on all sides; among these annexations are the early 1890s ceding of the areas of West Ridgway and Eagle Valley. Along with this physical growth came the rise of speculative building within the district. Typical of this activity is Hyde-Murphy executive Samuel P. Murphy's construction of five houses on Allenhurst Avenue in 1900 and Mrs. J. K. P. Hall's construction of five homes on Dewey Avenue, described as being "handsome new homes [which] will cost about $2,000 to $3,000 and will be an ornament to the town." Upon their completion, they were hailed as "very neat and convenient modern homes." The following year, C. J. Swift, an educator and principal of the Ridgway public schools, commissioned the construction of six residences, which were described in the local newspaper as being "six handsome and modern homes for rent." When Swift and his son announced their plans to build the new houses, the local newspaper heaped praise on the entrepreneurs:
"The enterprise of these gentlemen is worthy of imitation by other capitalists. They are much more certain of a good profit on their investments than are the people who "buck the tiger" at the bucket shop or indulge in the fascinations of the great American game of draw poker — and they don't have to be ashamed of their investment, either."
One of the more ambitious examples of entrepreneurial activity in the growing community was Frank McGloin's record in real estate investment. In 1898, the local newspaper reported that McGloin had lived in Ridgway for the past twenty-six years, and "he can with just pride point to the fact that he owns and has paid for a house every year he has been in town." The article continued that he had just acquired building lots on Center Street and "Mr. McGloin's twenty-seven years' residence in Ridgway will not be reached until next March, and, in order that his record for one house for every year may not be broken, it is his intention to build on one of the new lots before that time.
As the stands of timber were exhausted in last years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, Ridgway's growth and building activity continued due to the significant growth of a broad industrial base within the community. In 1896, the Ridgway Advocate published an "Illustrated Industrial Edition" which, in the characteristic booster prose of the day, began with the proposition, "there is no need to multiply words to prove the advantages of Ridgway as a desirable manufacturing site, as the fact has already been demonstrated." Industries in Ridgway during that time included the J. H. McEwen Manufacturing Company, the Elk Tanning Company (which operated two large tanneries), the Ridgway Press Brick Company, Hyde-Murphy and Company, the Ridgway Manufacturing Company, the Standard Ax and Tool Works, and the lumber mills of B. F. Ely and Sons. None of these industrial operations was located in the district, but the homes of the managers and the workers are found throughout, and add to the district's importance as the reflection of the industrial heritage of this north-central Pennsylvania community during the district's period of significance.
The Ridgway Historic District achieved ethnic diversity following the Civil War. This settlement pattern continued into the late nineteenth century, as Swedish, Irish, and Italian immigrants arrived in the growing community. At one time, Ridgway was forty percent Swedish, evidenced by the fact that two thriving religious congregations, the Evangelical Covenant and the Bethlehem Lutheran, were of Swedish derivation. Irish and Italian immigrants, too, populated Ridgway; the defunct Parish of the Sacred Heart of Mary had its church, rectory/convent, and school in adjacent buildings located at 443, 449, and 439 East Main Street, respectively.
The industrial prosperity of the community contributed significantly to the growth of the Borough's commercial district. Ridgway's earliest commercial buildings were primarily of wood construction; nearly all of these were replaced by more substantial brick buildings, reflecting the growth of the fortunes of the community late in the nineteenth century. Of the more than seven hundred resources in the district, nearly one hundred are commercial buildings whose mercantile use dates from the period of significance; Main and Broad Streets are lined with commercial architecture, nearly all of which date from within the period of significance. This architecture includes buildings which housed a diversity of shops and businesses, hotels, banks, and offices which were directly linked to the district's position as a local and regional commercial and industrial center as well as one transportation-related resource, the 1907 Pennsylvania Railroad, located north of the central business district and immediately north of Elk Creek on North Broad Street.
Commercial architecture within the district includes nearly all of the contributing properties along Main and South Broad Streets. Among these are the Ridgway National Bank Building, the Elk County National Bank Building, the Schoening & Maginnis Block, the Mercer Bros. Building, and the corner property at 200-204 Main Street. Of the several hotels which were once within the district boundaries, only the Bogert Hotel survives, at 150 Main Street.
The district's significance is established and supported by the architecture of the Ridgway Historic District, which includes examples of many of the formal styles popular for commercial, institutional, and domestic design throughout the period of significance. The district's architecture includes the aforementioned commercial buildings as well as an array of public and private institutional buildings built in the downtown and a substantial residential neighborhood surrounding the downtown. The domestic architecture of the district is clearly significant for its design and the commercial and institutional architecture augments the overall historic character of the district and reflects the institutional growth and maturity of the community.
Political and governmental institutional architecture includes the 1879 Elk County Court House and Jail, designed and built by J. P. Marston, who was also responsible for the Warren County (Pennsylvania) Court House. Other governmental architecture includes the National Guard Armory (NR 12/22/89) and the 1917 United States Post Office.
The religious heritage of the district was responsible for several historic religious buildings, including the 1905 Grace Episcopal Church with its Tiffany glass windows, the 1903 Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, the Bethlehem Lutheran Church of 1915, the St. Leo Magnus Roman Catholic Church of 1942, and the 1913 First Evangelical Lutheran Church. As noted above, the district's earliest extant Roman Catholic church building (c. 1868), served the Sacred Heart of Mary Parish and is at 443 East Main Street; along with its adjacent Rectory and later Convent, the church has been converted into a private residence. Religious educational heritage within the district is reflected in the St. Leo Magnus School of 1904.
Secular institutional design is reflected in the district in the 1905 Ridgway Y. M. C. A., the 1899-1900 Ridgway High School at 225 South Street, the 1904 Nurses' Home of the Elk County Hospital, and the Centennial High School of 1924-1925. The Ridgway Free Library occupies the c. 1910 former W. E. Hall House on Center Street.
The formally-derived architecture of the Ridgway Historic District occurs concomitantly with vernacular local building traditions executed by unidentified carpenters and builders. These buildings are co-equal in importance with the more elite-styled architecture which characterizes much of the district.
Additional significance for the Ridgway Historic District is derived from the district's association with several regionally-prominent architects and master builders. North-central Pennsylvania's most prominent architect of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century was Henry C. Park (1849-1920), who made his home in Ridgway from the early 1890s until his death nearly thirty years later and was responsible for many buildings in the district. Born in the village of Waverly, on the New York-Pennsylvania line in south-central New York State, Park arrived in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, about fifty miles south of Ridgway, in 1891. He removed to Ridgway in 1894, and became the resident architect for the Hyde-Murphy Company, the aforementioned prolific millwork producer and builder which had been established in the community ten years earlier. As their architect, Park was at the center of a frenzy of activity throughout this part of Pennsylvania, while his own practice flourished and his reputation spread. On July 19, 1900, the Ridgway Advocate reported that he had become a "noted and busy architect." He designed homes, commercial buildings, churches, and theatres, equally at ease with Queen Anne residential design and more formal Georgian Revival institutional architecture such as his 1901 Elk County Hospital (destroyed). In the region, H. C. Park designed the 1901 Jefferson County Home (destroyed), built by Hyde-Murphy, as well as the Jones House — a Clarion, Pennsylvania hotel — the F. Hohne House and the Temple Theater in St. Marys (destroyed) and the Blaisdell House in DuBois, the 1903 Methodist Episcopal Parsonage and the 1915 Jefferson County Exposition Hall, both in Brookville, and the 1904 Hon. T. M. Kurtz House (NR 1988) and the 1905 Jefferson Theater (NR 1985; destroyed), both in Punxsutawney. At the time of his death, a local newspaper eulogized him as an architect of "beautiful homes." In addition to the nearly exclusive use of Hyde-Murphy materials, many of Park's beautiful homes are characterized by lavish naturally-finished interior woodwork, elaborate stairways, beamed ceilings, and intricate cabinetry, and exteriors with broad verandas with delicate balustrades and often a projecting round corner. In the Ridgway Historic District the following properties have been identified as representing his work: the Ridgway High School of 1899-1900 at 225 South Street, the 1908 Swedish Congregational Church, the 1902 Powell House at 324 South Street, and the 1904 Nurses' Home of the Elk County Hospital. It is likely that nearly all of the pre-1920 homes in the district which are the work of Hyde-Murphy also reflect the design talent of H. C. Park.
Other architects represented in the district include J. C. Fulton, of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, who designed the 1903 Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church at 21 South Broad Street, and J. P. Marston (1832-1882), a Maine native who was responsible for the Elk County Court House. A nationally-known architectural figure whose work appears in the district was James A. Wetmore (1863-1940) who served for forty-five years as the Architectural Supervisor of the U. S. Treasury Department and who oversaw the design of more than two thousand federal government-owned buildings. His 1917 U. S. Post Office is located at the corner of Center and Mill Streets.
The long career of Buffalo architect W. W. Johnson is also represented in the Ridgway Historic District in his Late Gothic Revival-style 1904 Grace Episcopal Church, located at 216 Center Street. Johnson began his working career as a pattern maker and planing mill carpenter before entering the practice of architecture in the early 1880s, first in Saginaw, Michigan, and then in Buffalo. Johnson's skills apparently attracted the attention of Ridgway's Hall family, since Johnson designed a house in near-by St. Marys for J. K. P. Hall (destroyed); he also designed a Shingle-style home for George C. Simons (located in the National Register-listed St. Marys Historic District). Mr. And Mrs. J. K. P. Hall, Mrs. Hall's sister Esther Campbell, and Harry and George Hyde gifted the new Episcopal Church to the local congregation, built from Johnson's designs by local contractor P. C. Ross.
As noted earlier, the Ridgway Historic District's significance is also enhanced by its long and close association with the Hyde-Murphy Company, established in 1884 by Walter P. Murphy and J. S. Hyde. Walter Murphy was an Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, native who became a carpenter in adjacent Butler County and eventually worked as a building contractor in the Pittsburgh area. In 1862 he relocated to Freeport, Butler County and ran a planing mill until 1884 when he came to Ridgway and entered business with the existing firm of J. S. Hyde & Son. The new company bore the names of Hyde and Murphy and soon became leading manufacturers of architectural millwork, including trim, mantles, stairs, paneling, grillwork, and art glass, and were "recognized as one of the best known manufacturers of architectural woodwork and millwork construction in the eastern United States with sales offices in several cities" including Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York. The company was responsible for countless projects in the north-central Pennsylvania region, and also supplied building materials for the construction of the Pentagon, for embassies in Washington, D. C., and for the Tripoli Hospital in Honolulu. In addition to spacious and grand public and private architecture, Hyde-Murphy's work represented far less pretentious projects as well including the construction of fifty workers' homes for the DuBois Iron Works for New York banker Adrian Iselin and one hundred fifty-six homes in Ernest, described as a "new mining town" in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The Hyde-Murphy operation occupied a fifteen-building campus just north of the historic district along Race Street. Walter Murphy died in 1920 and the operation was taken over by his son, Samuel. The firm was described in a 1924 publication as on one occasion having erected 180 homes in the same number of days. At the time of that publication Hyde-Murphy had completed a total of 378 houses, office buildings, power plants, schools, churches, and public buildings in a variety of locations and had in one eleven-month span erected fifteen homes in Ridgway alone. Historian Alice Wessman recorded that,
"Thousands of homes and buildings of all types were erected by the company during their approximately eighty-five years in business. In addition, woodwork of the finest quality was furnished to innumerable schools, colleges, churches, offices, and public buildings throughout the nation."
The company ceased operation in 1961 and the manufacturing buildings were razed in the early 1970s. Their corporate office building is extant in the district at 222 Race Street.
It is no exaggeration.to state that the vast majority of the substantial buildings erected in the historic district after 1890 were the work of the Hyde-Murphy Company. Identified examples of the company's work include, the 1899-1900 Ridgway High School at 225 South Street, the 1904 Y. W. C. A., the Ridgway Armory, the 1906 Strand Theater at 209 Main Street, the 1920s Centennial High School at 300 Center Street, the 1894 home of Samuel P. Murphy at 111 East Avenue, the 1903 John Lund House at 301 Metoxet Street, the 1903 R. McClain House at 112 South Street, the 1910 home of Hyde Hotel owner Milton Wood at 130 Metoxet Street, the c. 1905 Harry Hyde House at 344 Main Street, and the 1893 home of butcher B. P. Mercer at 122 Center Street.
The work of the Hyde-Murphy Company is characterized by an unusually a high level of skill and craftsmanship for such a rural area, reflected in a diversity of architectural ornament, including carving, turning, scroll-sawn detailing, and art glass, both stained and beveled plate glass, all of which is seen throughout the district in porches, mantles, multi-stage windows, parquet flooring, doors and trim, stairways, mass-produced railings and balusters, newel posts, wall finishes including paneling, chair and plate rails, crown molding and wainscot, beamed ceilings, and cabinetry. The firm used a wide variety of high-quality hardwoods native to north-central Pennsylvania, including white oak, red, white, curly, and tiger maple, chestnut, black walnut, and black cherry, which was typically finished naturally.
Hyde-Murphy was also engaged to remodel interiors of existing, older homes in the district. Identified examples of this type of work include their treatment of the 1870s house at 121 Center Street, and the c. 1865 Jerome Powell House at 330 South Street. Clearly, this single firm had a greater role in shaping the appearance of the Ridgway Historic District than did any other builder in any other historic district in the region and beyond.
Other builders represented in the district include contractor W. H. Minor, who was responsible for the 1903 Methodist Episcopal Church at 21 South Broad Street, and M. V. VanEtten, of Warren, who built the Elk County Jail appended to the Court House and the 1901-1902 Ridgway National Bank Building.
Viewed in the context of the region, the Ridgway Historic District compares with a several historic districts within an eighty-mile radius, some of which reflect the boom-to-bust cycle of petroleum in Pennsylvania. The Warren Historic District, north of Ridgway, is comparable in size and also contains a large residential neighborhood associated with its commercial core area. The Brookville Historic District, thirty-four miles to the south, compares favorably to the Ridgway district in its architectural character, although the Ridgway district is larger in size and also contains a larger number of properties. Three mixed-use National Register districts in Oil City (the Downtown, North Side, and the South Side Historic Districts) contain similar resources, but fail to match the overall quality that is characterized by the Ridgway district. The Johnsonburg and DuBois Historic Districts, seven miles north and about thirty miles to the south, respectively, are both commercial districts and are considerably smaller, containing about sixty resources each; neither possesses the overall cohesion or the quality of architecture which characterizes the Ridgway Historic District. The St. Mary's Historic District, seven miles to the east and also in Elk County, is particularly significant for its association with the religious heritage of the area and while it contains locally significant architecture, it fails to compare favorably with the Ridgway district due to the loss of downtown properties and the sheer numbers of properties found in the Ridgway district. The Bradford Historic District, in adjacent McKean County, is nearly exclusively commercial in character, although potential residential historic districts are also found there. The downtowns of Kane and Smethport, also in McKean County, developed concomitant with Ridgway and are linked to the fortunes of petroleum in the Bradford field. Both of these are much smaller communities, although Smethport, like Ridgway, is the county seat. Kane contains a rich collection of commercial buildings, while Smethport's architectural inventory is smaller and less ornate. The Ridgway Historic District is clearly a significant representative of the pattern in industrial prosperity which was born of the lumber boom of north-central Pennsylvania. The district retains its historic architectural integrity and contains examples of many of the styles of design which were popular during its century-long period of significance.
Centennial Celebration of the Founding of Ridgway, Pennsylvanian. p., 1924.
Frederick, Paul. "A Look at Charming Towns in the Forest: Ridgway." www.allegheny-online.com/towns-ridgway.htm1.
Hill, Harry The Story of Ridgway. Ridgway: Ridgway Publishing Co., 1964.
Hill, Ruth W. Random Ridgway Recollections n. p. 1968.
Leeson, Michael A. History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron, &Potter, Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1890.
"Elk County." Pennsylvania Heritage (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1977.
Ridgway Advocate "Illustrated Industrial Edition." August 20, 1896.
Ridgway Advocate newspaper files.
Ridgway Record newspaper files.
Riseman, Joseph, Jr. History of Northwestern Pennsylvania. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1943.
Ross, Philip. Allegheny Oil: The Historic Petroleum Industry on the Allegheny National Forest. Warren: U. S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 1996.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Ridgway, Pennsylvania. New York: Sanborn Map Company.
Souvenir Centennial Program. n. p., 1924.
Taber, Thomas Townsend Tanbark, Alcohol, and Lumber: The Forest Industries of Ridgway, St. Marys, Hallton, Wilcox, Portland Mills, Straight, Johnsonburg Williamsport Lycoming Printing Co., 1974.
Wessman, Alice L. A History of Elk County, Pennsylvania Ridgway: Elk County Historical Society, 1982.
__________Ridgway, Our Town. Ridgway: Village Improvement Association, 1976.
__________ and Faust, Harriet. Sesquicentennial History of Ridgway. Ridgway: 1974.
[†] Taylor, David L., Ridgeway Historic District, nomination document, 2001, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.